Gnocchi Dolci di Natale

Sweet Christmas Gnocchi

This is my own variation of the most ancient and traditional dish for an Umbrian Christmas. It calls for pasta to be cut into squares, boiled, then dressed with the walnut mixture and eaten cold. I don’t like cold pasta at the best of times – especially not when it’s sweet and chocolatey – but the walnut mixture is so good and easy to make that I decided to use it in this way instead. Serve with chilled Vin Santo as an unusual end to a Christmas feast.

Ingredients

  • 50 walnuts
  • 150 g (5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white breadcrumbs
  • 50 ( oz) bitter cooking chocolate, grated
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 liqueur glass sweet liqueur
  • a large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • about 4 tablespoons milk, if necessary
  • 450 (1 lb) plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • oil for deep frying
  • icing sugar for dusting

Method

Crack open the nuts, blanch them in boiling water, then peel. Put them in a food processor with the sugar, breadcrumbs, chocolate, lemon rind, liqueur and cinnamon. If the mixture is very stiff, thin with a little milk.

Mix together the flour, egg and as much warm water as needed to make a smooth dough. Knead thoroughly for about 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough as thinly as possible: this is important and a pasta machine would help. Cut into 4 cm (1¾ inch) squares and brush round the edge with water. Place a little of the walnut filling in the centre of each one, fold in half and press closed tightly. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer, to 195°C (385°F). Add the pasta, about 4 at a time, rolling them over with a slotted spoon until they are crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar. Serve hot or cold.

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